Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Story vs. Elkhart Central: Match #12

The Lead: "Senior's Battle"
Tonight was our senior night. And tonight our senior's played with a lot of heart.

Blake Shetler, who has made the move from #2 doubles last year to #2 singles this year, played incredibly well. After coming out just a little off in the first set (and against an opponent who was just a little on fire), Blake really began to pick up his play in the second set. Holding serve each time, he built a 5-4 lead in the second set. It was amazing to see him really begin to believe he could win against Blazer senior Brett Morton. Morton was 12-0 on the season, took the first set from Blake 6-0, and was blasting serves and forehands. But Blake found a strategy, fought every point, and brought himself to the brink of winning a set.

Unfortunately, he couldn't break Morton's serve, and then got broken himself to go down 6-5. A little pep talk from me ( I told him to get it to a tiebreak, not the most brilliant advice, but practical) and a little help from Morton's nerves (he threw in a double fault for the cause), and Blake broke back for the first time all match to send it to a tiebreak. Again, in the tiebreak Blake fell behind 4-1, before rattling off three straight to tie the breaker at 4. The fight that Blake had to again and again believe he would win the next point was amazing. Morton would sizzle a passing shot past him and Blake would come right back to attack the net on the next point. Morton would blaze a big serve and the next point Blake would challenge him with a drop shot. It was exciting tennis to watch.

But it didn't go our way. Morton ended up winning the tiebreak and taking the second set (and clinching the team match for Central). Which left one of our seniors on the court fighting for a victory, Evan Grimes.

Evan had been playing #1 doubles with Abe Thorne all season, but we decided to split the pair of them up and challenge for the #1 doubles spot with new partners. Abe Thorne and Wade Troyer had won the challenge, and Evan and Parth found themselves playing #2 doubles for this match. Instead of being disappointed and down about losing the #1 challenge, Evan and Parth played their best tennis of the year in the first set against Blazer juniors Riley Futterknecht and Alex Moon. They kept the ball in play, and served extremely well, all of which added up to a 6-3 set win.

In the second set, they became more inconsistent. Sometimes they finished points, sometimes they stroked the ball long. Sometimes they held their nerve, sometimes they got frustrated. You could see the emotion and the frustration teetering back and forth. They wanted to win so badly, but despite a 6-5 lead in the second set, they also lost it in a tiebreak.

The tiebreak loss seemed to deflate the confidence, and inflate their frustration. In the third set, they again seemed to have trouble placing the ball in the court and finding their serves. It was an incredible emotional high in the first set, and it gave them an incredible set. But we just couldn't finish it off.

These seniors have worked really hard through the years, and perhaps tonight wasn't the best representation for them, to have losing matches on senior night. But I loved the battle. The determination and the desire to win. And I love these seniors. More about them in a later post.

The Hidden Narrative
It was a disappointing 4-1 loss to Central tonight, but the one varsity win was a huge highlight. Nathan Brendle has quietly been rounding his game into the best form of his career. Tonight Nathan quickly defeated Blazer #1 Nic Burton. Burton had similar scores to Nathan against the same opponents, and looked like he would be a really good match for Nathan.

And he was, but Nathan won the match comfortably according to the scorecard. Nathan's baseline game has been impressive lately, and his net game is ever improving. It is good to see him growing in confidence and positive energy as the season goes forward. As Nathan is learning to enjoy the game, he's playing it a lot better.

Now, every day can be like Tuesday!

Other Storylines
- Central's normal #2 doubles team has been changed a bit this week because of an injury to Franklin Fisher. He was in a car accident over the weekend. Please keep him in prayer.

- Nathan took over the lead in individual wins tonight, he had been tied with Blake. No one clinched a team win for us tonight, so Ike still leads that category.

- Everyone got to play tonight! In a rarity this season, Elkhart Central had exactly the same number of players as we did. We both even had an injured player, as Ryan Minter remains sidelined for us.

- On that JV level, Landon Weldy got the only win. This ties him with Sol Brenneman for the team lead, but moves him into the winning percentage lead. He's now 7-2 on the season!

- Two more tiebreaks for the varsity tonight. That's 19 played on the season. The most tiebreaks a team has ever played in a season before this one was 15 (in 2006, 2008, 2010).

- Central's team is filled with juniors. They have 11 juniors, just like we have 11 freshman. In two years, maybe we'll be in a similar situation, with just 1 loss and ranked in the district!

The Scores
#1S - Nathan Brendle - 6-2, 6-3 - Nic Burton (11)
#2S - Blake Shetler - 0-6, 6-7 (4) - Brett Morton (12)
#3S - Ike Lehman - 0-6, 1-6 - Blake Brouwer (11)
#1D - Wade Troyer/Abe Thorne - 1-6, 0-6 - Mitch Hanberg (12)/Austin Sellers (12)
#2D - Evan Grimes/Parth Patel - 6-3, 6-7 (2), 1-6 - Riley Futterknecht (11)/Alex Moon (11)

Junior Varsity
#1SJV - Sol Brenneman - 0-6 - Sean Quinn (11)
#2SJV - Landon Weldy - 6-2 - Jake Mullins (11)
#3SJV - Hans Miller - 3-6 - Taylor Ely (11)
#1DJV - Himal King/Joel Gerig - 5-7 - Alex Buitendorp (11)/Brian Harter (11)
#2DJV - Ryan Duckworth/Tristan Clark - 2-6 - Matt Morrison (11)/Mikey Namisank (11)
#3DJV - Justin Zehr/Luke Schrock - 1-6 - Scott Hanberg (9)/Will Riblet (9)
#4DJV - Roberto Ramos/Neel Bhagat - 2-6 - Will Bernacchi (12)/Eric Burton (9)
#5DJV - Colin Samuel/Delan Schrock - 2-6 - Patrick Allen (9)/Dominic Massaro (10)

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